The Venn diagram of doom or how I make career choices
Friends, mentees and colleagues often ask me to be a sounding board for career decisions. Should I do A or B? Should I say yes or no? What should I do next? How do I know what the right call is?
It’s a great honour and an invitation to a conversation that I take extremely seriously. Because anyone who knows me, knows that they ask a question, I ask ten back. Not being funny, it’s a given. I am terrible at giving straight answers to vague questions. I guess that is why people come to me. And I take that trust seriously.
And what I tell them is this:
All decisions are emotional.
Your gut points you a certain way. Your heart decides.
Then your head wraps some logic around it. Retro-fitted and after the fact. And when it works well, off you go. When it doesn’t work well, you struggle. You hesitate. You lose sleep. Not because you can’t decide, but because you can’t justify what your heart desires.
Don’t fight that.
That’s being human.
Without that you are a robot and have a whole host of circuit problems I can’t help with.
So given all decisions are emotional but some thinking after the fact is needed, this is how I make my career decisions in order to help the heart along its way. I use the Venn diagram of doom to create parameters for my heart to decide. And what started as a “hey, can I run an idea by you” has becoming a thing friends and colleagues joke about. Because the Venn diagram of doom is simple. And it works. Every time.
What’s the question
The question genuinely needs to be directional.
What should I choose?
It can be this or that, when two offers are on the table. It could be open ended, when no options are on the table and it feels hard to breathe sometimes. It could be sanity-checking, when life seems full of options and everything seems possible but everything cannot possibly happen all at once so what will it be.
The question cannot be “what is the right thing”, because there is only what is right for you next. Nothing more but that is enough.
The question cannot be “what would you do”, but it can be “what would Brian Boitano do, if he was here right now”. Because he’d make a plan and he’d follow through, that’s what Brian Boitano’d do (yes, yes, five points if the song is now stuck in your head. You are welcome.)
Your three cycles
What are you good at? This is a hard question because it is often not the thing you worked the hardest at. Not the thing you wish you were kick ass at. You may be making a living as a quant and you are not bad at it but the thing you are really awesome at, hard as it is to capture it in a CV, is getting the team to understand the “so that” of the work, so that in the fray they know what sacrifices are acceptable and what battles are worth fighting.
What are you really good at, even if you struggle to articulate it without sounding like a jerk? This is for you so don’t filter.
What are you good at?
What do you like doing? No real job is made up of sugar and spice and all things nice only. Any real job comes with heartache and some stress and bits you really, really hate. But. If we are having a conversation that entails the Venn diagram of doom, you have a career, aspirations and options. Nobody struggling to keep body and soul together or striving to get started feels they have the luxury of choices like this one, or a right to it. So we are here. Indulge for a minute. What do you like doing, at work, not paragliding and stuff. Let’s be a little focused. Or paraglide away but there is no Venn diagram there, no overlap. Just a potential decision that you would be happier doing something else, that doesn’t involve an office…
But for this, just indulge and see where what you are good at and what you enjoy doing overlap.
Strangely, being good at handling hard conversations and loving to help people grow and flourish may feel poles apart but actually where they overlap you get someone ready to take on the daunting task of building a team, building a business.
The third cycle is: where do you think your chosen market is going?
Not your current job and department, not your current organisation, not the circus you sit in. The market.
Where do you think the market will be, where the money will be made, where the circus will be pitching its tent in five years’ time. No certainty, of course, but let’s eat our own dog food a little. Where do you think the world will be in five years and how much of what you are good at and what you like doing will it need. And where.
Why the doom and gloom
I call it the Venn diagram of doom and that always gets me nervous laughs. Why doom?
Because none of this takes you where you think you are going. Not in terms of the decisions but in terms of the reasoning.
Doom is not the outcome, not the result. Quite the opposite.
Doom is the emotion you will jokingly embrace as you start seeing that your personality may be a greater asset to your career than 25 years of subject matter expertise. That passion may be the thing that will help you pivot away from what you are good at to what you think will still be marketable in five years’ time. Doom will momentarily be the feeling that envelops you. And then you will laugh. Because you now have a plan you believe in.
When do you need this? When you hesitate about career decisions. When you worry about career options. When you can’t decide if something will take you in the right direction. When trying to assess if the things you are drawn to (career wise, you are on your own for the rest… there are limits) are good for you.
How long should it take? Honestly about ten minutes. If it is taking you longer you are not being honest with yourself.
How long is it good for? Until you feel you need it again.
That’s it. Now go do.
By Leda Glyptis
Leda Glyptis is FinTech Futures’ resident thought provocateur – she leads, writes on, lives and breathes transformation and digital disruption as chief of staff at 11:FS and CEO of 11:FS Foundry.
She is a recovering banker, lapsed academic and long-term resident of the banking ecosystem.
All opinions are her own. You can’t have them – but you are welcome to debate and comment!